Vegan Irish Soda Bread

I’m a proud Irish-American.

You have to have the hyphen in there because—let’s be honest—we’re not really Irish. Many of us (myself included, unfortunately) have never been to Ireland, a fact that we quickly cover up with how recently we’ve seen our Irish cousins, or what county ‘we’re’ from.

It’s a lovely diaspora, though.

Like most Irish-Americans, I grew up poor, but proud. Non-Irish-Americans may think me conceited, but I know that the reason that I’d rather overdress is out of a deep sense of self-consciousness and pride. After all, someone who has lace curtains in the front windows and freshly tailored clothes each season can’t be poor, can they?

In reality (not somewhere of which we Irish-Americans have heard), South Boston—that historical Irish stronghold of the Hub of the Universe—has some of the highest rates of white poverty in the country. But it also has mothers who dress their kids in the latest fashions from Filene’s, and they always look better than those Cassidy children in Mass on Sunday.

Our detachment from reality is so entrenched that I was in high school before I realised that the rest of the country wasn’t Catholic, too.

So of course we had corned beef and cabbage (once a year only) on St. Patrick’s Day. And besides tacos, which my mother could stomach with Morningstar Farms mock meat, Irish soda bread was the only really palatable vegan dish that I remember her making for me.

And for the record, is has been just a little while since I’ve seen Cousin Anne. My mother’s family is from Cork, and my father’s family is from the Monaghan-Fermanag-Armagh area, but we’re not Northern Irish (bless your soul, Pop-Pop).

M’ainm Meaghan—spelled according to Irish spelling rules, but not a name that you’d see in Ireland.

And just like me, this vegan Irish soda bread is as proudly Irish-American as they come.

Because look! It’s based off Peter’s Mum’s Soda Bread Recipe, which basically makes it as Irish as they come, right?

Some recipe science/notes:

  • Whole wheat pastry flour works best because it’s lower in gluten than regular or bread flour. Gluten is a mean, sticky protein, and its primary goal is to keep things pulled together tightly. (Think about stretching over-keanded pizza dough versus dough that’s been resting for a while.) Lower gluten in your flour means lighter, fluffier bread, since the bubbles of carbon dioxide will be able to raise the dough higher when gluten isn’t pulling down.
  • Mix the vegan buttermilk in only once you’re ready to bake; the acid in the buttermilk will start to react with the baking soda immediately, forming carbon dioxide bubbles and raising the dough. You want this to happen in the oven, not on the counter.
  • Mix until just combined, for the same reason that you’re using pastry flour. Less mixing means less activated gluten, which means a lighter, fluffier bread.
  • Measurements are in grams because baking by weight allows for more accurate substitutions than baking by volume. Kitchen scales come highly recommended.

Vegan Irish Soda Bread Recipe

By M. M. Cassidy Published: March 5, 2013

  • Yield: 1 Boule (8 Servings)
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 40 mins
  • Ready In: 50 mins

If it's got raisins, then it's spotted dog—not soda bread.

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 230ºC (450ºF).
  2. In a small bow, whisk together the soy milk and vinegar. Set aside to curdle to make vegan buttermilk.
  3. In a large bowl, sift the flour, salt, and baking soda together.
  4. Mix in the raisins (if it's a special occasion) to coat with flour. This version is called spotted dog; soda bread normally doesn't have raisins in it.
  5. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Pour in the buttermilk and mix for a wee bit until just combined.
    vegan Irish Soda Bread round
  6. Turn the dough onto a clean surface and form into a circular mound. Transfer to a baking sheet. With a sharp knife, slice almost all the way down in half, then in half the other way to quarter.
    vegan Irish Soda Bread round, sliced into quarters for baking
  7. Bake at 230ºC for 10 minutes, then turn down the heat to 205ºC (400ºF) for 30 more minutes. Once cooked, it will be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  8. Remove from the oven and wrap immediately in a towel. Serve a quarter at a time alongside Irish stew, for breakfast, or with tea. Store any remaining bread in a plastic bag.

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